The 10 best interior design quotes of all time, by everyone from Winston Churchill to Nina Campbell

Country Life's executive editor and long-standing interiors guru Giles Kime shares 10 of the most helpful interior design quotes of all time, bringing together gems by everyone from Winston Churchill to Nina Campbell.

‘Decoration, to me, is about making people look pretty and feel happier’
Nicky Haslam

Few people make the connection between good design and the emotions — and even fewer with physical appearance. It’s a worthy ambition that helps to explain the designer’s long and illustrious career.

‘We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us’
Winston Churchill

This comment was made by Churchill in 1943, about the restoration of the Commons Chamber that had been damaged in a bombing raid two years before. It pointed to the connection between the impact of buildings and those that occupy them. Seven years later, there was a new chamber, complete with a new snuff box made with salvaged timber from the original building.

Winston Churchill contemplates the ruins of the House of Commons, after it was bombed in May 1941. Incendiary bombs which fell on the nights of 10 and 11 May 1941 caused the greatest damage to the Palace of Westminster and the Commons Chamber was entirely destroyed by fire. The Palace was damaged by air raids on fourteen different occasions during the war. Photo by The Print Collector/Getty Images

‘I want my rooms to be lived in and not to be looked at’
Robert Kime

Yes, who wants to live in a picture of overthought perfection? The irony, however, is that there are few things nicer than looking at rooms dreamt up by Robert Kime, with their timeless, sleepy beauty, where you know you could relax without feeling that you need to constantly plump up the cushions.

‘The best decoration in the world is a room full of books’
Billy Baldwin

One of the US decorator Baldwin’s legendary projects was the library that he designed for Cole Porter at Waldorf Towers and furnished with brass shelves against dark lacquered walls. Perhaps the only caveat, here, is the books themselves; nul points for bulk purchases of impressive tomes you never open — plenty of broken spines add significant intellectual cred.

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The library at West Horsley Place, Surrey. Photo by Paul Highnam for Country Life. ©Country Life

‘Giving old furniture a new lease of life is at the heart of my philosophy’
Nina Campbell

There are so many convincing reasons to make a habit of this; not only does old furniture add character, but it also has significant environmental benefits.

‘The best rooms have something to say about the people who live in them’
David Hicks

In other words, you should never be afraid to reveal your myriad interests/past/family connections in an interior.

‘I believe in plenty of optimism and white paint, comfortable chairs with lights beside them, open fires on the hearth’
Elsie de Wolfe

On the subject of white paint, she’s at odds with the English decorator Roger Banks-Pye (below) who wrote decades later that ‘though there are many many moments when white walls might seem a relief, those moments are rare and should be discouraged’. Paint colours might be a highly subjective area, but comfort, lighting or open fires never are.

Sometimes more is more: Spetchley Park, Worcestershire. ©Paul Highnam for Country Life

‘Always scale up, not down. Everyone is terrified of making things too big — if in doubt make it bigger, not smaller’
Roger Banks-Pye

This sentiment was also expressed by Nancy Lancaster, one-time owner of hugely influential firm of decorators Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler, for which he worked. I have never known it not to be the case.

‘I always put in one controversial item. It makes people talk’
Dorothy Draper

Aiming for controversy in interiors is a high-risk strategy; for many people, it’s a euphemism/excuse for a lapse in aesthetic judgement. What I suspect she meant was ‘out of context’, such as 21st-century art in 18th-century spaces (or vice versa), which is always a good thing.

‘I never follow trends. If I was aware of them I didn’t care, for I believed, as I do now, that rooms should be timeless and very personal’
Sister Parish

Spot on, Sister, it’s no wonder you did for everyone from the Kennedys to the Gettys.

President John F Kennedy in the Oval Office of the White House with children John Kennedy Jr and Caroline Kennedy play, October 10, 1962. The Kennedys hired Sister Parish to redecorate the White House and make it suitable as a family home. Photo by Cecil Stoughton via Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).

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